Notices for 18th December 2006 to 8th November 2006
Monday, 18th December 2006
A few days ago, I received an e-mail out of the blue from Mike Carone of Tranceparent (who are, or were, Mike Carone and Steve Moir), telling me that he still has copies of his old MP3.com-era music and offering to give me copies of it. Which he has done, so at long last, I have Tranceparent – Differential again! Thanks guys. I am told I can share it with anyone, so I have posted what he has given me so far to the Music that MP3.com forgot archive for everyone to play with. Just leaves Virus.eye on my wishlist now :)
I have no idea if anyone has seen or downloaded Sound Hack yet (I guess I could go check), but it had a fatal flaw: on receiving a broadcast event from Windows, such as a USB Mass Storage drive mount, it would exit. I have posted a revised version that seems to be more content to stay running. I was also pointed to the kX Project – a replacement set of third-party drivers for certain EMU-based Creative cards such as the Live! and Audigy, but I don’t want to risk more crashes and problems when Sound Hack solves the only real problem that I have. But other people who are braver than I may wish to use this as a way to resolve driver flaws with their Creative cards, as there must be many if people feel a need to rewrite them all from scratch!
I have also outlined the road map for HTTP Werkzeug development; development is presently stalled though.
Finally, a new Bug of the Moment entry.
Saturday, 9th December 2006
I have no clue why Mistress Melanie chose ICDSoft as her hosting company, but I chose them on her recommendation in January 2003 and have been with them ever since. Having encountered the likes of Dreamhost and Nearly Free Speech, I no longer feel I can recommend them as far as value for money goes and I have no idea how they compare otherwise, but I’ve realised there can be a lot worse. Steve of WetInRed whose site I am renovating, is with Globat, who are driving me insane. They’re the hosting company equivalent of the stark paranoia that Chuck Shotton displayed developing the MacHTTP Web server: features are nothing but security holes.
Globat use Apache. They don’t allow the use of the
Options directive even to remove directory indexing with
Options -Indexes which would make the site more secure, although
IndexIgnore * is acceptable. The use of
AddType to add new MIME types is also forbidden, despite its substantial canonicity and the drawbacks of mis-assigned types (don’t get me started on the insanity of types in MacHTTP).
ErrorDocument is not allowed, so patching the 404 page into the site template is not possible; nor can Steve check up on membership abuse with a custom 401 script. The changes involved a lot of URLs becoming obsolete, but
Redirect* directives are also forbidden.
Rewrite* directives are, oddly, permitted, which seems exceedingly strange given its immense power when something as trivial as
AddType is banned. This is all under the guise of “security” but they won’t give any reasons and tend to just ignore my mails now.
And their control panel is dire.
For any disagreements I have had with ICD, and their really flaky Web mail program, they respect me as an adult and don’t nanny me by declaring everything I try to do as a security hole. If I want to reconfigure Apache to my heart’s content, that is fine by them. I have a case sensitivity fixer and 404 reporter inside a custom error handler page. My directory listings and error pages are customised to match my site style and use the standard navigation. Since I serve some less-common file types from my site (module music, Photoshop files, etc) I’ve set all the appropriate MIME types for them, which helps certain browsers like iCab and Firefox 1.5 cope better with them. (Firefox 2.0 appears to fix the problem of not obeying download settings when the extension and MIME type conflict).
For this, I am truly grateful: my site is mine to command and it shows. Steve is hoping to be done with Globat whenever he can find a suitable replacement host. I cannot recommend ICD because he has substantial bandwidth and storage requirements that ICD are not geared up for, else I would recommend them: everything that I find annoying about Globat, ICD get right. And while all support staff are shifty by nature, Globat’s are hopeless. Simple bug reports like phpMyAdmin 2.5 (!) not reading any MySQL character sets take days to get back a “I have no clue what you just said” level of reply, whereas ICD get back to me far faster than they claim is their intended minimum time.
I no longer have the reply and thus his name, but they do have one decent soul who helped me track down a bug in my code that was causing serious problems. The scary thing is, though, you can’t threaten them; they’re content to have you leave instead of trying to provide a better service or look into any complaints. The most stunning part is that one of them was suggesting that the Billing department might – but no guarantees, since he was admittedly making this up – offer Steve some free goodies as compensation for lousy support and excessive security restrictions. Why not just go get a big lump of wood and clout someone into giving some proper answers into why we can’t have any features, a working control panel, a halfway up-to-date version of any software (they’re still on phpMyAdmin 2.5, MySQL 4 and PHP 4 and I am on versions 2.9, 5 and 5 respectively!) or know what is going on? It would do them a world of good.
Cheers ICD! Here’s to more years of freedom to come.
Wednesday, 8th November 2006
Well, another step along the road to optimising all the images on the site. Some people may be aware of how badly JPEG compression copes with fine detail and with anything bright red in the image. I wrote to Thorsten Lemke, the developer of GraphicConverter, about this problem and he told me that the answer is simple: switch off subsampling in the JPEG compression options. Subsampling is the process responsible for breaking all your images when you compress them. It does a good job of reducing file size further for most images, but if you need bright red, text at small point sizes or other fine details, it is beneficial to switch this feature off.
I don’t know how many programs offer this as an option. GraphicConverter on the Macintosh does, as does IrfanView for Windows (I just checked). But it is definitely worthwhile. Switching off subsampling allows you to bring the compression quality back down to a sane level with tricky images, as you don’t have to ramp the quality up to 100% in a vain effort to preserve red areas and fine detail: it is never lost in the first place. The ThinkNerd images directory was 1.2 MB before this process, and just under 1 MB afterwards, a saving of over 200 kB in total. I saved nearly another 100 kB hand-optimising a few more images. The file size did increase slightly though as a result of adding one more t-shirt :)